Saturday, September 13, 2008

Deep in the Heart of Texas

Bill Crider is the author of the Sheriff Dan Rhodes mystery series set in small town Texas. The 15th book in the series, Of All Sad Words, came out in February. Bill is a master at making his home state feel alive for readers. Publishers Weekly said, "Crider expertly evokes this small Texas town and its eccentric cast of characters.

Bill has also written four other mystery series, several stand-alone mystery and suspense books, a number of westerns, some horror novels, several books for younger readers, and so many short stories I kept losing my place trying to count them all. He's a native of Mexia, Texas. The town's second most famous citizen--after Bill, of course--is the late Anna Nicole Smith.

*Parts of Texas are being battered by Hurricane Ike. Please keep their people in your thoughts and prayers.*

Hi. My name is Bill, and I’m a Texan.

Yes, that’s right. Born and raised in the Lone Star State, home of the Alamo, the (now sadly outdated and abandoned) Astrodome, NASA, longhorn cattle, the Marfa Lights, Tex-Mex food, Willie Nelson, Dr Pepper, and the Dallas Cowboys.

Is it true that Texans like to talk about their state? Yes. Let me tell you more.

Texas is the home of The Big Texan Steak Ranch a restaurant in Amarillo where they’ll serve you a 72 ounce steak. That’s right, 4-1/2 pounds of pure Texas beef, cooked the way you want it. What’ll it cost? Nothing. It’s free if you can eat it all in one hour. There’s are a couple of catches, of course. The first is that you also have to eat the sides: a salad, a baked potato, and a roll. The second is that if you don’t eat it all, you have to pay, though it’s only around $50 for the meal. I’d call that a bargain. You’d probably pay that much for some artfully arranged arugula and soy protein in New York City.

Amarillo’s also home to the Cadillac Ranch, the place where you can see a bunch of Caddies buried nose-first in the Texas soil. Nothing says Texas like a half-buried Cadillac.

Closer to home (my home, that is) you can find the Beer Can House, covered with something like 50,000 flattened beer cans and other beer can adornments. Its beer can wind chimes give the house a unique sound when the wind blows, and some people say the house itself sings. Possibly they’ve been drinking too much beer.

Up on Interstate 45 near Huntsville stands the world’s tallest statue of an American hero, in this case Sam Houston. Big Sam is 67 feet tall and stands on a 10 foot base. A bit shorter is the statue of Stephen F. Austin on Highway 35. Austin’s a mere 60 feet tall, but he does stand on a 12 foot base.

Let’s say you like cemeteries (hey, who doesn’t?). In Houston you can visit the Glenwood Cemetery, a very upscale resting place just a mile from downtown and the final destination of Howard Hughes. Not to mention Gene Tierney. Before you visit the cemetery, though, you might want to drop by the National Museum of Funeral History, a much more cheerful place that you’d expect.

If you’re planning on visiting any of these fine attractions, be warned: Texas has a lot of pests. Some years ago when we were living in Brownwood, we attended the annual rattlesnake roundup, an event now frowned upon by many. I’m not a fan of snakes in any form, whether they have rattles or not, and the sight of a gigantic pile of snakes writhing, hissing, and rattling was a little disconcerting to me. I never gave a second’s thought to animal cruelty or the ecological impact. I was too busy looking for an exit.

Our house was in Brownwood was occasionally host to scorpions. Some of them looked like this. I don’t care what this guy says. I’ve been stung by Texas scorpions more than once, and the memory of those stings still gives me chills.

Some of our pests don’t hurt you, at least not with bites or stings. If you visit the Cockroach Hall of Fame in Plano, don’t miss Liberoachi.. I don’t know if he has his brother, George, with him.

I could go on, but you’ve probably already stopped reading and gone to do something exciting, like watch the grass grow in your front lawn. But if you’re still there and if you want some really outrageous Texas bragging, you could do worse than to click here.

Before I leave, I’d like to thank the Deadly Daughters for inviting me here. They might regret it now, but it’s too late. Hook ‘em Horns!


Lonnie Cruse said...

Ahhh, Bill, how lovely to have you guesting here. I've been a fan of your mysteries for so long, I can't honestly remember how I discovered you. I've hung onto all the copies I have of your books.

I particularly love the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series so it's no surprise that the first series I wrote has a male sheriff. Please keep on writin' 'em, you make me laugh out loud. I always list you as one of the writers whose work I dare not read in public for fear of getting tossed out of wherever I am. Hehehe.

Thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing more about your home state, Bill. The funeral museum and the cockroach hall of fame appeal to my slightly off sense of humor.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for stopping by, Bill. I'm a fan of Sheriff Rhodes too.

Anonymous said...

I'm a great fan of the Sheriff Rhodes series, went to high school and college in west Texas. I don't miss the dust storms but I do miss the BBQ. Thanks for all the great stories. I wish you could explain-teach humor writing in mysteries, but I suspect some things can't be taught.

Julia Buckley said...

Bill, I'm not sure I should have clicked all those links. And am I supposed to believe that giant scorpion story? Or was that a put-on? If it is true, I will have to put Texas (along with Florida) on the states-not-likely-to-visit list, despite all of the wonderful things you told me. My bug phobia is legendary. :) (This hearkens back to Sandra's phobia post).

Helen Ginger said...

I love you Bill Crider. Wait, let me re-phrase that. I like you Bill Crider and I love your Sheriff Dan Rhodes series.

This was a great post. You know how to deliver laughs with deadpan punch. Viva Texas.

Unknown said...

Thanks to all for the kind remarks. We're in Dallas this weekend for a wedding, escaping Alvin, where our house is still without power. Maybe next time I'll blog about hurricanes!